LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Winter is around the corner. And forecasters are looking at what to expect.
"This upcoming winter, the climate prediction center is forecasting a la nada event," said Alex Kirchner, Daybreak Meteorologist. "It's basically right between an El Niño and a La Niña. This mainly means that the Pacific Ocean temperatures are right about where they should be."
Without a strong signal from the Pacific, forecasting becomes more challenging. According to the Climate Prediction Center's Winter Outlook, this means an equal chance of above or below average temperatures in the Midwest.
"Temperatures can go either way this winter," said Jeff Boyne, Forecaster at the National Weather Service in La Crosse. "This is probably one of the more difficult ones. A lot of it is going to depend on where the high pressure sets up across the western part of the Country. If it sets up on the west coast, like some of the models are suggesting, we'll see a colder than normal winter. If it's more toward the Plains, we'll see probably above average temperatures."
The Climate Prediction Center is also predicting a greater chance for below normal precipitation. But below normal precipitation does not necessarily mean less snowfall.
"We've been hearing lots of stories about, because precipitation is forecasted below normal, it also means snow is below normal," said Boyne. "That is not always the case. Sometimes you can have above normal snowfall with below normal precipitation."
"We always talk about liquid precipitation in the winter," said Kirchner. "When it comes to snow, snow takes less water content to form. So you could have a lot of snow but with very little water content within that snow."
Forecasting tools and methods better every year, but no matter good, one fact holds true: the weather is subject to change. And even with a strong El Niño or La Niña signal, winter weather in the Midwest is still notoriously difficult to predict.
"The outlook for this winter is for several month's worth of weather, but you're kind of going to have to stay tuned," said Kirchner. "Because if you think back to last winter, we had a La Niña, that means heavy snowfall, but didn't end up panning out that way because of a lot of short term patterns influencing our area for a couple weeks at a time. That same thing could happen this winter."
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